I wondered what the geography was around Stalingrad.
In Don Cossack country the well kept villages comprised whitewashed cottages with thatched roofs, surrounded by small cherry orchards, willows, and grazing meadows (for the horses) (Beevor, 1999). The Germans saw a marked contrast between these and the dilapidated collective farms.
In the fighting of 26 Jul – 11 Aug 1942 by the 33rd Guards Rifle Division the area is described as having fields (sun flowers are mentioned) and marsh (Beevor, 1999).
Kalach on the Don consisted of small workshops, a dilapidated railway station, and primitive wooden shacks (Beevor, 1999).
The steppe between the Don and Volga was slightly rolling terrain of dry, rough grass, broken by gullies (balkas) (Beevor, 1999).
- Wooden houses which were burned to the ground fairly early on in the piece, leaving only their brick chimney’s standing (Beevor, 1999).
- Tall white apartment blocks (Beevor, 1999). These reminded some Germans of Athens.
- The worker’s settlements were described as garden cities (Chuikov, 1963). They had the same tall white apartment blocks but also had little houses with corrugated tin roofs – presumably unpainted as they sparkled.
- Behind the German positions on the Volga in late Aug was a semi-cultivated parkland of oaks, walnut trees, sweet chestnut and oleanders, bordered by allotments of melons, tomatoes, vines and fruit trees (Beevor, 1999). These parklands were quickly shattered by artillery fire.
- The dust of the ruins was a dun (pale brown) colour – the colour of the bricks used (Beevor, 1999). This covered everything.
- “Not a house is left standing. There is only a burnt-out wasteland, a wilderness of rubble and ruins which is well-nigh impassable.” (Beevor, 1999, p. 149)
- “the war move into the jagged gullies of the Volga hills with their copses and ravines, into the factory area of Stalingrad, spread out over uneven, pitted, rugged country, covered in iron, concrete and stone buildings” (Doerr, 1955, cited in Chuikov, 1963, p. 135). Doerr also mentions houses, workshops, water-towers, railway embankments, walls, cellars, and piles of ruins.
- Shrub covered gullies (Chuikov, 1963).
Beevor, A. (1999). Stalingrad. Penguin.
Chuikov, V. I. (1963). The Beginning of the Road: The story for the Battle for Stalingrad. Macgibbon and Kee.
3 thoughts on “Geography In and Around Stalingrad”
I painted my Stalingrad buildings in various pastel colours which may be OK for other Russian cities, but I now realise from pre-war photos that white (maybe with some cream) is more typical. I interpreted the brick colour as red, both from the remains of the Flour Mill and from seeing some reference to “pink dust”. Of course, one man’s red may be another man’s brown, so somewhere in between might be optimum.
The big apartment buildings were white. Different countries have different standard brick colour. British bricks are, as you know, red. Australian bricks are mostly yellow-brown. I’ve no idea what Russian bricks are. I paint mine red-brown. I’m still struggling with painting the general layer of brown / red-brown / pink dust.
I assume bricks were made on site so local clay colour would be crucial. London bricks, for example, are not red but yellow.